Shortly before his death in 1936 John Ringling bequeathed his collection of baroque art to the State of Florida so that it might remain intact and available for future generations. In addition to paintings and sculpture, he collected books. Although Ringling had no formal education his personal library was recorded in 1936 as possessing 1,500 books. In the intervening ten years, before the State of Florida acquired the collection, over 1,000 books disappeared. Today, only 500 remain. Yet this personal library offers clues to his reading habits, tastes, preferences, and aspirations. There are 469 books in English; 145 in German (his native language), 56 in Latin, 2 in Italian, and 1 in Chinese. The oldest book dates to 1672, James Adair’s The History of American Indians containing an account of their Origin, Manners and other Particulars, and the latest, was published in 1935, one year before his death—evidence that he continued to read and acquire books late in life. The majority of the books take art as their subject, though there are eleven literature books as well as an instructional guide to best works in literature, International Library of Famous Literature. These books are preserved in a climate-controlled space in the educational building on the grounds of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. These books belong to the Ringling Library and they form the basis of the Library’s now extensive holdings in visual arts-related materials. At present the Library contains 4,760 non-circulating books. This catalogue explores seven literature books in the present expanded collections of the Library. These books’ illustrations hold interest to art historians, but they also hold interest to those interested in exploring the interpretive potentialities of a digital public archive. “Archive as Network Catalogue,” part of a January 2015 New College of Florida ISP Project, created by seven intrepid researchers and a professor, presents seven books to the public. Inviting the user to examine the book as an object, to explore its illustrations, the relations between text and image, print practices, the history of publication and reception, and the circulation and commodification of books in the book market, Archive as Network provides high resolution scanned images of dust jackets, book covers, frontispieces, headbands, and other noteworthy elements of each book. These were originally produced as 600 dpi tiffs. The books are catalogued using Dublin Core categories. To use the catalogue follow the link at the top of this post.
Permissions to include high resolution scanned images of Ringling Library materials have been generously granted by the Ringling Museum Library.